Saturday, March 31, 2012
I set the alarm for 6:15 Am as I wanted to get up and go for a run this morning. However a train went by at 6:00 am blowing its whistle and woke me up, so I turned the alarm off. The next thing I knew it was 7:40 Am so I pulled on my running tights and top and went for a 30 minute run. The first mile was tough. The second mile was a lot easier and by time I was into mile three I was flying. I wound up with at a 29 minute 5k which was pretty good considering that this was my first run since the Napa Marathon way back on March 4. On the run a javalina ran out in front of me. It was pretty fun.
I got back to camp to find that breakfast was over but the cook pulled a parfait out for me. I gobbled it down and threw my gear into the bags and pushed off almost last. It caught up with Ken in the local coffee shop, so I collected him and the two of us were off down the road. It was easy sailing and we were down to the first sag which was at the 20 mile make in just over an hour. Wallace was there so the three of us set of with Wallace pulling us down the road at speeds approaching 35 mph. The favourable tail wind combined with slight down hill put us into the 40 mile sag in around 45 minutes. This left us with just 14 miles to go and the three of us knocked it of in 40 minutes.
There wasn’t much for scenery and the town of Sanderson sure isn’t much either. It is only slightly more than a cross roads however 75% of the buildings are abandon. There are three cafes but they are all closed. Two gas stations, one of which has hot dogs on the roller grill. They were pretty nice after the ride.
The pictures are; a self portrait taken while going 30 mph with one hand holding the camera, a shot of the road , and an old Texaco gas station advertizing sodas for $0.05 and tire repairs for $0.50.
We are staying in the high school gym tonight which isn’t my favourite as I prefer the tent. So I will take a few Tylenol and try for some sleep. The early risers are up at 4:45. The high school gym class is doing a fund raiser for us for our supper. I am trying to be positive.
Tomorrow is 78 miles and it is going to be hot so I will try for an early departure.
Friday, March 30, 2012
Today was a rest day so there was no riding. Instead we were shuttled down to Big Bend National Park. It was a 70 mile one way drive.
The park is right out in the middle of the desert. There are all these large hills. Some of them are volcanic and some are dolomite. The views are very dramatic but I will let the pictures do the talking. We had lunch in the main park restaurant. After lunch we drove down to the Rio Grand and walked out to the beach and dipped our feet into the river. It isn’t reall much of a river but it up against some very dramatic dolomite cliffs.
On the drive back we saw some javalina in the ditch. I was quite surprised at how large they were. They were probably in the 50 pound range.
Tonight our cook had made blackened salmon. It was absolutely excellent.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
It is hard to believe that we have been on the road for 19 days already. The time seems to have just flashed past us. There have been zero riding accidents to date and hopefully there will be none. There have been three riders drop out so maybe this is going to be it. Normally you would lose 10-15% for trip of this nature either accident or drop out.
There seems to be quite a chasm developing between the riders. There are few who want to get up at 5:00 Am and then set about zipping and unzipping their tents. This of course wakes the rest of us up who want to sleep until 7:30 Am. Sunrise is at approximately 8:00 Am and first light maybe around 7;30 Am. There was quite a heated debate at rider meeting last night. I don’t think there was any resolution other than the early risers will be asked to please keep it down. Fortunately I chose the snoring section when we started out as there are generally fewer snorers in the snoring section and generally no early risers. However there have been two tents added to the snoring section in the last couple of nights of heavy snorers, and one of the heaviest snorers was placed right beside me last night.
To days ride was from Marfa to Marathon which was 60 miles. The actual routed distance was 56 miles but Ken and I went into Marfa proper to get a real cup of coffee. The cook for this tour bought a 2 pound can of Folgers and he expects that to last for the trip. The coffee is barely brown. So we rode around looking at the town which was a bit of a boom town in the 1930’s when oil was discovered near by. The oil boom is long since over and now it is kind an art community.
From Marfa it was an easy ride down 30 miles to Alpine where Ken and I met up with Wallace and Hans for lunch. Alpine is a really cute little town and we had a very nice lunch. However we spent a little too long before we got back on the road, as we still had 30 miles and we were only 8 miles out when the road surface went to chip seal and the wind turned into our face. There were gusts up to 45 mph and I could hardly make 8 mph. I pulled into the sag with 5 other riders. We waited about 30 minutes and as soon as there was a lull in the wind we took off. Five of us battled into the wind and rain for about 6 miles before we got though the storm. The last 15 miles were down hill and we had come through a little pass where the wind was now on our back. We just flew into. The five of us just had a great ride.
Tonight is burgers and brats. Tomorrow is a rest day And we are going down to Big Bend National park.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
The route instructions for to day were turn right out of cam ride 75 miles turn right into camp. When you look at a map of Texas you can see that the highway between Van Horn and Marfa has on turn in it. The highway goes straight south for 35 miles to a Valentine (Pop 217) then makes a 45 degree and heads south east for 40 miles.
We were up at 6:30 for coffee thanks to the early risers even though sun rise was not until 7:54. I was on the road at 8:05 and was one of the last to leave camp. There was absolutely nothing to see along the way. So I contented myself with taking photos of the riders.
Lunch was at the little town of Valentine where the 6 high school students were putting on a fund raiser for us. They are planning a trip to Costa Rica. They had pork burritos and brownies for us for $5.00. They were very good. The principal came out and talked to the riders about the little town and his school of 66 students. They are having a tough time as the ranching life is dying and there is no other industry. Nobody wants to live so far from anything.
The highlight of the day was this Prada store out in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately it was closed. Go Figure!!
After lunch the road turned to chip and seal and was very rough. It was a long grind and I am glad to be off it.
Marfa is the home of these unexplained lights in the sky, Some people thing it is related to headlights. However they have been seen for hundreds of years. You can Google it and read about it. Bubba is going to shuttle us down there to see the lights. Is that weird or what?
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
It was cold last night and a lot of people were complaining this morning about being cold at night. I even had to pull my fleece out this morning before the ride. Breakfast was being prepared by some local catering company and they were late delivering the breakfast burritos so everyone sat around chomping at the bit ready to go. They were worth the wait and the sun came up and warmed things up.
George from Texas announced this morning that to day would be his last day riding. He may come back in a couple of weeks however he is taking all of his gear so I would not give that a high likelihood. His wife is sick with cancer and he needs to be with her while she receives treatments. I hope things go well.
The ride was 75 miles to day and we started off down some little used roads before getting on to the I-10 for a few miles. Then we crossed over to this frontage road which paralleled the I-10. It was a chip seal road. The chips were huge chucks of gravel and they just jarred your teeth out. The road had a 1% up hill grade virtually all the way. So it wasn’t steep but between the chip seal and the grade it just wore you out. One side was the I-10 and on the other was the railroad. It was dead straight and really boring and hard.
I got to the lunch stop which was at the 40 mile mark by 10:40 Am and didn’t feel like eating so I just rolled on through. I don’t think I can eat another plate of refried beans.
After the last sag stop at the 60 mile mark we crossed over the interstate and the last 15 miles was down the interstate. I just got onto the interstate when I broke my chain. It was a brand new Ulterga chain too. So there I was on the interstate with a broken chain, and by now it is close to 90 F. The pin which let go was still attached to one side of the chain so I beat the pin back in using a pair of rocks. By the time I was finished I was black with chain grease up to my elbows. There was only one hill which was about a mile long and then a 6 mile down hill to Van Horn. The beat together chain held and I made it in first.
We are here in a KOA campground which is pretty nice. Hot with no shade but they have WIFI and tonight is barbeque brisket.
The ride to day was only 58 miles so there was no hurry getting out of the hotel where we were staying. In addition we wanted to let the morning rush hour settle down because we had to ride right across El Paso. We had come into El Paso from the west and were leaving out of the south east.
I left the hotel with Ken as he had gone to school in El Paso and Ken knows his way around. Having some one to navigate the directions was great as there were a lot of twists and turns. The first stop was the Aztec bakery where Ken and I enjoyed some very nice buns which were covered in icing. They were only $0.50 each. Unfortunately they did not serve coffee so we had to find a coffee in a McDonalds several miles down the road.
The road out of town was quite narrow and had a lot of traffic on it however it was very polite and several cars did not pass us until there was a clear spot. After we cleared town there was almost no traffic, and the road was extremely smooth. Having a good wind from the 4:00 o’clock position was a good help as well.
The country side gave way to a lot of farms and pecan groves. The pecan groves have not yet leaved out, so they look quite stark in comparison to every thing else which is green. If there is water you have very rich looking fields. If there is no water it is burned out scrub brush.
Ken and I continued down the road together and rolled into lunch in a small local Mexican restaurant. After lunch it was only 18 miles to Fort Hancock. The good tail wind and smooth flat road was great and we covered it in no time flat. Even with the late departure and lots of stops We rolled in at 2:00 PM.
Tonight we are camping in a church yard. There is a high school across the road where we are going to shower but we can’t do that until 3:30 pm when school gets out. It looks like Ft Hancock is about 100 residents.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Last night after our delicious supper of feves au lard avec saucinies et boeuf cuite dans la graisse, we had two speakers. The first was the mayor of Columbus. She was a young woman who was very nervous to be addressing us but after she warmed up to the group she was actually an incredibly interesting person. She was not elected mayor but wound up in the office after existing mayor, assistant mayor, police chief and two town aldermen were convicted of gun running to the Mexican drug cartels across the line. She is one of the EMS workers and her main job is delivering babies of Mexican women who show up at the boarder crossing in labour. This way the baby is born in the US and is therefore an American citizen. WOW!! The second speaker was a friend of Bubbas who was an ex-under cover police officer who told us some very interesting stoties of his days as an undercover officer.
However you want to hear about the exciting adventures we are having riding though the total waste land. Wallace, Don and myself had decided to leave last so we just hung around and then rolled out of camp together. The idea was to leave last and then get in first. We followed quite a few other riders so I had my water pistol out and gave several of them a shot as we cruised past. They were think ing I was going take their picture so there was quite a surprise as I rode on by. I took a few rider pictures after I emptied my water pistol. Then I scared a couple of riders by coming up and barking. Here we are in the middle of the desert and there isn’t a house for 50 miles so how would there be a dog coming after you. Lunch was at the 40 mile mark and by the time we got to lunch I was out in front. Wallace and I left lunch together and rode up to the DQ which was at 69 mile mark. Don joined us and we were going to ride in together but two other rider came up so Wallace and I left Don who wasn’t ready to go yet. Wallace and I rolled in first.
It was a very nice 79 mile ride over some exceptionally smooth pavement with a tail wind which seemed to come and go. We crossed the Rio Grande which is nothing but a little bit of muddy water in aditch into Texas.
We are in a dumpy hotel tonight next to a gravel pit and cement plant. There is an elite gentlemen’s club across the street. Wallace killed our roommate with one of his shoes (radiation does not kill these guys).
Saturday, March 24, 2012
After yesterday’s century a day off was certainly welcome. However the town of
Columbus is hardly the town I would have picked to have a day off in. The town is approximately 600 people. There is a little museum which is the old railroad depot from the Dodge-Phelps line which ran up to Bisbee but that line was abandon in the early 1970’s. There is a tiny but very nice museum in the Pancho Villa state park. These museums detail the 1916 raid by Pancho Villa in to Columbia New Mexico. This raid sparked the positioning of US Army troops here and a 400 mile march by Pershing into Mexico. Pershing pushed into Mexico with cavalry armoured cars and troops searching for Pancho Villa but never found him. This set Pershing up to be the US commander in WWI. The US operation cost $130 million in 1916.
Ed took me for a little ride on his tandem recumbent bicycle. This was my first ride on such a contraption. It was a little intimidating. However it could be fun as you would always have someone else to ride with.
For lunch we were shuttled across to the Mexican town of Palermo. We went and had a very nice lunch in a place called the Pink Store. The food was excellent. It was kind of a unique experience. However there isn’t much there either. The fence/wall between Mexico and the US runs about 0.5 miles in either direction from the actual boarder crossing and then turns into barb wire fence. It is about 10 feet high. I assume that no one from Mexico has figured out how to get around the fence.
Tomorrows ride is 74 miles into El Paso, which put us into Texas
When the alarm went off at 6:40 Am this morning it was still dark as we lost an hour. So I crawled into my riding kit and headed off to breakfast. It was a long day today; in fact it was the longest ride of the tour at 96.5 miles. I don’t exactly know what the temperature was but I think it was in the low 40’s.
When I hit the road it was 7:40 and the sun was up and things were starting to get warm. I wanted to get as far down the road as possible as early as possible because the forecast was for 90 F. There were quite a few others who had the same thoughts and I was far from the first out.
The road was not a good as yesterdays and a lot of it was rough chip seal. It was also some what rolling. However I did manage to maintain a pretty decent speed. There sure wasn’t much to see as this is pretty desolate country, in fact we hard the road to ourselves. The only car I saw was our cook and just as he passed me the county sheriff came screaming passed and pulled him over for speeding.
The lunch spot was a cross road and we had these wraps which were delicious.
Having 50 miles yet to go I jumped on the pedals and with a nice tail wind was down to the school in Columbia where we are staying by 2:30. I rode a couple of extra miles to make my century. The ride time for my century was just 5:35. Only one other rider was in and so we had to wait until everything was set up. I went to see the local museum which details Pancho Villa’s raid on Columbia in 1916 and Pershing’s counter attack. The army posted to divisions here for a long time fearing more raids from Mexico. Now it is a town of a few hundred.
Tomorrow is a day off in Columbia. Bubba has organized a trip across the boarder to Mexico for lunch.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Right after we left Bisbee we rode past the Lavender pit. This is one big hole. So a quick photo stop and then on the road. It was 78 miles from Bisbee down to Rodeo. The first 25 was down hill so they just flew by. I pulled into the Sag and there was a bakery there so I ducked in and had a cinnamon bun for 50 cents.
After the SAG stop I rode along with Wallace to lunch which was out in the middle of the desert. As there was no services along the road our cook was making these wraps for lunch which were great. At this point we were only 45 miles down the road however the wind picked up from the west to about 20 mph. The road was dead flat and very smooth. So with a 20 mph tail wind you could ride along at 30 mph without even pedaling.
It was great just flying along. I was in camp first in less than 90 minutes. I know I have had more fun on rides but this one was sure a lot of fun.
Rodeo is just a cross roads in the middle of the desert. There isn’t even cell service.
Pictures to be added later
The little cabins proved to be quite comfortable. There was a little electric heater which barely put out any heat but it kept the cabin nice and warm. It sure beat sleeping in the tent when the temperatures are in the low 30’s. Wallace and Ken even admitted that their rubber mattresses were comfortable.
The ride was only 24 miles down to Bisbee today so breakfast was not until 8:00 AM. However everyone was up and milling around well before 8:00 am and was ready to go. I rolled out of camp with Ken and we circled through downtown Tombstone to see it in the daylight. There wasn’t much to see. About three blocks of tourist trap stores selling genuine made in China Western souvenirs. We didn’t see a coffee place so we rolled on.
The ride itself while very short was very pretty. We climbed out of Tombstone into the hills and were amazed at the beauty which surrounded us. I rode along and took rider pictures as well as lots of pictures of the country side. The big climb of the entire trip was today and it was about 2000 feet and about 10 miles. Almost anti-climatic after Italy. After the climb there was a short tunnel and a down hill into Bisbee.
Bisbee was a huge copper mining town from the turn of the century until the mid 1970’s. The town has now been taken over but arts and craft shops. The tourist business seems to be booming. There is a great museum down town which I went though. There is huge pit just south of town. I didn’t walk down to see it but it is suppose to be one of the largest holes in the world.
Tonight is another ghost tour and a wine and cheese party hosted by the local bike shop. Very cool!!.
The weather forecast is looking warmer. Yahoo.
Just a quick note here to say we went to a western shoot out which was absolutely hilarious. Then around the corner into Big Nose Kate’s Saloon for supper. After supper was the ghost tour. We got on a trolley which drove around town and we were told stories of the town of Tombstone. The high light was the night time visit to Boot Hill. The ghosts appear in photos as round balls of light. In the one picture you see the white cross in the next photo the same cross, but this time with the white balls of light. I am the only person who got this effect. Believe or not!
It froze really hard last night. It had rained about 8:00 PM and there were drops of water on the tent and when I crawled out the tent was covered with these quarter inch drops of ice. The tent zipper was also frozen and I had to pull it real hard to get it open far enough to crawl out. At least we had the rec. center at the camp ground to go into to warm up and have breakfast. Bubba was in there making scrambled eggs which was a nice change from the bowl of frosted flakes. There was also a drip coffee maker so we had decent coffee for a change as well.
I bundled up and headed out as soon as I could and the morning is always the best time to ride. You have the least traffic, the lest wind, and you can often get some by yourself time. It was a kind of chilly as the sun was just over the horizon but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and not a hint of a wind. The road lead me south from Tucson in to the desert and though a bunch of rolling hills which had lots of curves. It was great fun charging up the hills and around the corners. There was a good climb about 10 miles in and as I gained altitude I noticed that there was a significant amount of snow in the ditches which had fallen over night. It was very strange to see cactus sticking out of snow. By the time I reached the 25 mile mark I was at the summit and there was a one mile section of 5% down hill grade. By the time I got to the bottom I was close to 35 mph. There was rustling in the deep grass right beside me and a coyote shot out right in front of me. The coyote was no more than 10-15 feet in front of me. I don’t know who was more surprised.
At the 35 mile mark Wallace who was on a mission caught me and we rode into lunch which was this little place called Cunningham’s Ranch House on the right (but was actually on the left – Bubba’s directions—left Wallace and I shaking our heads). The bean soup and chicken fried steak special were excellent. After lunch Wallace and I rode along together and then got doing some serious pace line riding at one point Wallace was pulling at close to 32 mph. We had a little down hill and some cross wind which was some times a quartering tail wind. It didn’t take long to eat up the remaining 40 miles into camp,, and Wallace and I rode into camp before any one else. Don and Liam had challenged us at one point after the second sag but they never really had a chance.
We are staying in these little cabins in this RV Park about 2 miles out of Tombstone. The place is pretty much a dump but the cabins are ok. I won the flip and got the bed with a real mattress. Ken and Wallace are in the bunk beds which have nasty looking rubberized mattress. We are being picked up and taken into Tombstone for the gun fight at the OK coral and supper.
It would have been a great day as the road was great, the scenery beautiful, however it was just a little cold at about 45 F. I guess I shouldn’t complain as it would have been dreadful a 100 F.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Today’s ride was only 35 miles so there was no hurray to get on the road. Besides it was only 34F. I lay in bed as long as possible but finally got up and put on everything I owned including my heavy duty rain gear as I could hear the rain pounding down on the tent.
After a hardy cold breakfast of cold frosted flakes and half frozen milk Ken and I rolled out of camp on our ride though Tucson. At least the rain had stopped but the wind was still howling. After 15 miles we found a Starbucks and rolled in. We spent about 45 minutes drinking our coffee and almost dreading getting back out into the howling wind.
When we came out the sun was shinning and it was at least 10 degrees warmer. It was not quite pleasant. The ride was very nice as there was a beautiful bike lane the entire way and the scenery was excellent as Tucson is set in the hills. The architecture of the homes is primarily the SW adobe style so there were lots of pretty places.
By time we got to the 33 mile mark it was lunch time so Ken and I went in and had fish and chips. They were excellent. We thought that we had 2 miles to go but it turned out to be about 6 miles. Bubbas’ mileage was out to lunch again.
It is forecast for continuing cold.
The wind was howling all night long and the tent was flapping away but I was so tired I slept though most of it. However by about 4:30 I became aware that dust was filtering into to the tent and settling on everything. I turned on the light and sure enough there was a fine layer of dust coating everything. I hastily threw everything into my bag and zipped it up.
By 7:30 AM the rain was lashing the tent so I crawled out and Bubba was organizing people to be transferred to a café for breakfast. The wind is still howling and it is only 33 F. I have every piece of clothing I own on. I jumped in to a car and we were off. I camped at breakfast as long as I could but finally we had to leave. Four of us took a shuttle over to a neighbourhood mall and wandered though Wal-Mart for three hours and then went to a movie. I saw “Safe House” with Denzel Washington. It was one of the best action flicks I have seen in a long time.
The movie was out all too soon and I was back out in the cold. We stepped out of the theatre and there was Web who is one of the sag drivers so he drove us back to the campsite. I cleaned my bike and cleaned the dust out of my tent. I was quite lucky there as I only got a fine layer some people wound up with almost 0.5 inches in their tent. So I had time for an afternoon nap.
We get breakfast and supper on days off on this tour so after supper Bubba had organized this local radio personality called Cowboy Joe to come and give us a talk. He was an old cowboy whose family ranched the area for at least three generation. He was quite interesting.
The forecast is for continuing cold.